The Cycle of Life at the Oldest National Wildlife Refuge in Texas


Driving through blinding blowing dirt from unplowed fields to high water over the roads, we were expecting a bountiful array of wildflower blooms at the Muleshoe NWR due to all the rains we’ve been getting on the Llano Estacado. What greeted us was near-drought conditions that come with blowing dirt with the loud crunchiness added.

The Muleshoe NWR is extremely dry at the moment. It seems the rains have been hit or miss around the entire refuge. Areas that have been prescribed burned at the refuge are a beautiful sea of green and yellow. Jackrabbits are the prevailing habitant now. One lone shrike was probably hoping my car would stir up some food for it to impale and eat as it flew along aside the road. On the northern boundary of the refuge near Paul’s Lake was a pair of Swainson’s hawks sitting stoically in the high winds from the passing dry line. North Paul’s Lake is bone dry.

A couple from Muleshoe were out there with their dogs. One dog wove around the newly erected bobbed wire fence like it was an agility course. The couple was surprised by the dryness. She had picked a single sleepy daisy to carry back with her and I smiled as she called out wildflower names of the ones that were trying their best to survive in the dryness.

In talking about the dryness, they mentioned that the prairie dog colony was gone. When I told them it was the plague that wiped them out, remarkably the lady said not again.

Everything is cyclic. The rains will eventually come back to the refuge drenching it and allowing the wildflowers to explode for a brief period. Eventually, the prairie dogs will return offering habitat for burrowing owls, badgers, cottontails, and one of our favorites ferruginous hawks.

While most are saying no more rain please, many areas still need rain for the regrowth to begin again. Always be thankful for the rain.